2017 MLB Season Preview – American League Central

jose-quintana

 

Chicago White Sox

2016 Record: 78-84 • 4th AL Central

O/U on Wins: 73.5 • Under

Moving In: P Derek Holland • 2B Yoan Moncada • P Michael Kopech • P Lucas Giolito • P Reynaldo Lopez • OF Rymer Liriano • RP Giovanni Soto • OF Peter Bourjos

Moving Out: P Chris Sale • OF Adam Eaton •OF Austin Jackson • 1B Justin Morneau • C Alex Avila • P Matt Albers • P Anthony Ranaudo

Key Player(s) in 2017: Carlos Rodon. Departure of Chris Sale and potentially Jose Quintana (at some point) means that Rodon’s progression will need to continue if the White Sox hope to expedite their rebuild. The 2014 2nd overall pick still needs to improve his command, surrender less long balls (23 in 2016),and to further develop his change-up which would give him 2 complimentary pitches to his fastball.

Potential Breakout: Lucas Giolito. Centerpiece of the trade that send OF Adam Eaton to Washington. Former MLB #1 Prospect. Made MLB debut with Washington in 2016 and should start 2017 with White Sox. Projects as front end starter. 6’6 frame, electric stuff (mid 90’s heat and a big ol’ overhand curve). Needs to further develop his command. Averaged close to 3 BB/9 to go along with a K/9 well over 9. Along with Rodon, could help expedite Chicago rebuild and give them two young, controllable arms for the foreseeable future.

Top Prospect: 2B Yoan Moncada • Age: 21 • MLB ETA: 2017

First Round Draft Miss: P Lance Broadway (15th) over Jacoby Elsbury (23rd) in 2005.

Fantasy Stud: Jose Quintana • 2016 Stats: 13/3.20/1.16/181/5.1 WAR in 208 IP

Money’s Man Crush: Newly loaded farm system. Gives the Pale Hose a chance to compete sooner rather than later, as well as a something they haven’t had in a while; a budding farm system.

2017 Prediction: 5th AL Central

 

encarnacion

 

Cleveland Indians

2016 Record: 94-67 • 1st AL Central

O/U on Wins: 92.5 • Over

Moving In: 1B Edwin Encarnacion • P Boone Logan • 1B Chris Colabello • C Erik Kratz

Moving Out: 1B Mike Napoli • OF Rajai Davis • P Jeff Manship • OF Coco Crisp

Key Player(s) in 2017: OF Michael Brantley. Massive breakout year in 2014 (.327/.890/20/97/6.8 WAR in 611 AB) where he finished 3rd in the AL MVP voting. Followed that up with another solid season in 2015 (.310/.859/15/84/3.4 WAR in 529 AB). Unfortunately for both Brantley and the Indians, Brantley was sidelined with a shoulder injury for all but 11 games in 2016, including the playoffs. Even without (arguably) their best offensive player the Indians were able to make it to Game 7 of the World Series. If Brantley can come back healthy and play up to his potential, you can can pencil the Indians in as one of, if not the favourite in the American League to make it (back) to the World Series.

Potential Breakout: P Trevor Bauer. Despite related incidents and engaging in flame wars via Twitter, Bauer enjoyed a solid 2016 where he set career highs in wins (12), innings pitched (190), and WHIP (1.31). Even with those improvements, Bauer still has more to offer as far as his potential goes. He will need to continue work on his command and control in order to further his development and see more positive outcomes.

Top Prospect: OF Bradley Zimmer • Age: 24 • MLB ETA: 2017

First Round Draft Miss: 1B Beau Mills (13th) over OF Jason Heyward (14th) and C Devin Mesoroco (15) in 2007.

Fantasy Stud: Andrew Miller • 2016 Stats: 10 W/1.45/.68/123/12 S/3.9 WAR in 74.3 IP

Money’s Man Crush: Francisco Lindor. I say that despite the incessant ball washing that was heaped upon him from the MLB commentators during the 2016 ALCS; as well as his murdering of the Blue Jays during the same series. Hard not to swoon over a switch hitting SS with perennial 20/20 capability (23/19 in 2016). Not to mention that he is pretty decent with the glove too.

2017 Prediction: 1st AL Central

 

Minnesota Twins v Detroit Tigers

 

Detroit Tigers

2016 Record: 86-75 • 2nd AL Central

O/U on Wins: 85.5 • Under

Moving In: C Alex Avila • IF Omar Infante • IF Brendan Ryan • P Edward Mujica • P Daniel Stumpf

Moving Out: C Jared Saltalamacchia • SS Erick Aybar • IF Casey McGehee

Key Player(s) in 2017: P Justin Verlander. The Detroit ace enjoyed a huge “comeback” season in 2016 after posting two straight sub par campaigns. Verlander went 16-8 with a 3.04 ERA in 227.2 innings and added 254 strikeouts, which was good enough for 2nd in Cy Young voting. Verlander’s renaissance season came on the heels of rebuild rumblings in the Motor City and he will need to continue to pitch like the Verlander of old if the Tigers are going to compete in the Central and stave off any rebuild rumours for (at least) another season.

Potential Breakout: Daniel Norris. At this point, people know more about Daniel Norris, the surfing/photographer that lives and travels in a VW Bus during the offseason than they do about Daniel Norris, the southpaw that has shown glimpses of brilliance in a mere 32 MLB starts. While it’s no secret that Norris has the dynamite stuff and smooth mechanics that should enable him to stay in an MLB rotation for years to come, it’s his durability concerns that have caused him to miss out on reaching both his potential as well as making 30 starts in a season. A full, healthy season in 2017 could see Norris set new career highs across the board, not to mention help an aging Tigers team compete against the likes of the Indians and the Royals in the Central.

Top Prospect: Matt Manning • Age: 19 • MLB ETA: 2020

First Round Draft Miss: Kyle Sleeth (5th) over Nick Markakis (7th) in 2003

Fantasy Stud:1B Miguel Cabrera  2016 Stats: .316/.956/38/108/4.9 WAR in 595 AB

Money’s Man Crush: Daniel Norris. Definition of stud both on and off the field. As much as I loved the Blue Jay’s 2015 trade acquisition of David Price, the loss of Norris to Detroit hurt in more than one way. Not only did we lose a young lefty with huge upside but we also lost him to an American League team, and a historic rival of Toronto. For further reading, search “1987 Blue Jays season.”

2017 Prediction: 3rd AL Central

 

MLB: Kansas City Royals at Cleveland Indians

 

Kansas City Royals

2016 Record: 81-81 • 3rd AL Central

O/U on Wins: 80.5 • Over

Moving In: OF Jorge Solar •P Travis Wood • P Jason Hammel • 1B/OF Brandon Moss • P Bobby Parnell

Moving Out: P Wade Davis • DH Kendrys Morales • P Edison Volquez

Key Player(s) in 2017: OF Lorenzo Cain. If it wasn’t for injuries, Lorenzo Cain would’ve (most likely) put up another spectacular season like he had in 2015 when he finished 3rd in AL MVP voting. The Royals will need a big bounce back season from Cain in order to give them a legit shot at competing against the Indians for top spot in the Central. Cain will also want to put up a strong season as he is a free agent at seasons end and could look for a big deal from somebody other than the Royals.

Potential Breakout: OF Jorge Solar. The Royals acquired Solar from the Cubs in exchange for closer Wade Davis. The hope is for Solar to open the season as the everyday RF but that will be up to the play of Solar. During his time in Chicago, Solar showed both moments of brilliance as well as moments of sheer frustration. A breakout year from Solar could make the (possible/eventual) loss of Lorenzo Cain a bit more easier of a pill to swallow.

Top Prospect: Matt Strahm • Age: 25 • MLB ETA: 2017

First Round Draft Miss: Bubba Starling (5th) over everyone else (Rendon, Lindor, Baez, Springer, J. Fernandez, S. Gray) in 2011.

Fantasy Stud: 1B Eric Hosmer • 2016 Stats:

Money’s Man Crush: 1B Eric Hosmer

2017 Prediction: 2nd AL Central

 

Miguel Sano, Brian McCann

 

Minnesota Twins

2016 Record: 59-103 • 5th AL Central

O/U on Wins: 70.5 • Over

Moving In: C Jason Castro • 1B Ben Paulsen • OF JB Schuck

Moving Out: C Kurt Suzuki • UT Trevor Plouffe

Key Player(s) in 2017: OF Byron Buxton. The legend of Bux was already being written long before the Twins took him with the 2nd overall pick in the 2012 MLB Draft. Buxton’s tool set is off the charts. In the field, he’s a plus defender with plus range and a cannon for an arm. At the plate, he has shown some of his power potential but has yet to hit at a consistent clip. His inability to get on base has also rendered his plus speed and base stealing capability essentially moot. While it is sure to be a long year in the Twin Cities, a breakout year from Bux could give the fans at Target something to cheer about. However, another down year could see Buxton starting to look more and more like an Aaron Hicks 2.0 (all glove, no bat) instead of the legendary baseball figure that was being etched out back in his Georgia hometown.

Potential Breakout: P Jose Berrios. Berrios enters the season in competition for the fifth spot in the rotation against Trevor May. While Berrios has the higher ceiling of the two, his dismal debut (3-7/8.02 ERA in 58.1 innings) could give May the inside edge, at least on paper. Berrios will need to drastically improve his command and cut down on the free passes (5.4 BB/9 in 2016). Now I am not trying to be negative in regards to Berrios. I believe that his debut could be a mere bump in what could be a promising career. That promising career could begin as early as this season, it will all depend on Berrios’ approach throughout the season. He should have a rather lengthy leash with the Twins not expected to compete for a playoff spot in 2017.

Top Prospect: Nick Gordon • Age: 21 • MLB ETA: 2018

First Round Draft Miss: 1B Chris Parmelee (20th) over P Ian Kennedy (21st)

Fantasy Stud: 2B Brian Dozier

Money’s Man Crush: 3B Miguel Sano

2017 Prediction: 4th AL Central

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2016 MLB Regular Season Predictions • American League

2016-opening-day

Happy Opening Day to all of the baseball fans out there! I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t still emotionally hungover from last years Blue Jays playoff run. Every baseball moment from the “Bat Flip Heard Around the World” has been a complete blur, as was the subsequent offseason. Yet all of that is past us. Every team has a clean slate, and anything can happen.

 

American League East

MLB: Tampa Bay Rays at Baltimore Orioles

Baltimore Orioles

2015 Record: 81-81 (3rd AL East)

O/U Wins in 2016: 78 Wins • Push

X-Factor: Chris Tillman • SP

Potential Breakout Player: Dylan Bundy • RHP

Futures Report: Hunter Harvey • RHP

2016 Final Standing: 4th AL East

 

price

 

Boston Red Sox

2015 Record: 78-84 (5th AL East)

O/U Wins in 2016: 87 Wins • Over

X-Factor: Clay Buchholz • SP

Potential Breakout Player: Jackie Bradley Jr. • OF

Futures Report: Yoan Moancada • 2B

2016 Final Standing: 2nd AL East

 

AP Blue Jays Yankees Baseball

 

New York Yankees

2015 Record: 87-75 • (2nd AL East)

O/U Wins in 2016: 85 Wins • Under

X-Factor: Nathan Eovaldi • SP

Potential Breakout Player: Luis Severino • SP

Futures Report: Jorge Mateo • SS

2016 Final Standing: 3rd AL East

 

archer

 

Tampa Bay Rays

2015 Record: 80-82 • (4th AL East)

O/U Wins in 2016: 82 Wins • Under

X-Factor: Corey Dickerson • OF

Potential Breakout Player: Jake Odorizzi • SP

Futures Report: Blake Snell • LHP

2016 Final Standing: 4th AL East

 

joey

 

Toronto Blue Jays

2015 Record: 93-69 • (1st AL East)

O/U Wins in 2016: 87 Wins • Over

X-Factor: Troy Tulowitzki • SS

Potential Breakout Player: Aaron Sanchez • SP

Futures Report: Anthony Alford • OF

2016 Final Standing: 1st AL East

 

 

American League Central

 

sale

 

Chicago White Sox

2015 Record: 76-86 • (4th AL Central)

O/U Wins in 2016: 82 Wins • Under

X-Factor: Todd Frazier • 3B

Potential Breakout Player: Carlos Rodon • SP

Futures Report: Carson Fullmer • RHP

2016 Final Standing: 4th AL Central

 

indians

 

Cleveland Indians

2015 Record: 81-80 • (3rd AL Central)

O/U Wins in 2016: 87 Wins • Under

X-Factor: Michael Brantley • OF

Potential Breakout Player: Tyler Naquin • OF

Futures Report: Bradley Zimmer • OF

2016 Final Standing: 2nd AL Central

 

Detroit Tigers batter Miguel Cabrera watches the ball as he hits a two-run, two-strike, two-out, home run to tie the game in New York

 

Detroit Tigers

2015 Record: 74-87 • (5th AL Central)

O/U Wins in 2016: 82.5 Wins • Under

X-Factor: Justin Verlander • SP

Potential Breakout Player: Daniel Norris • SP

Futures Report: Michael Fulmer • RHP

2016 Final Standing: 5th AL Central

 

royals

 

Kansas City Royals

2015 Record: 95-67 • (1st AL Central)

O/U Wins in 2016: 84.5 Wins • Over

X-Factor: Lorenzo Cain • OF

Potential Breakout Player: Danny Duffy • SP

Futures Report: Raul Adalberto Mondesi • 2B/SS

2016 Final Standing: 1st AL Central

 

MLB: Minnesota Twins at Chicago White Sox

 

Minnesota Twins

2015 Record: 83-79 • (3rd AL Central)

O/U Wins in 2016: 80 Wins • Over

X-Factor: Miguel Sano • 3B

Potential Breakout Player: Byron Buxton • OF

Futures Report: Jose Berrios • RHP

2016 Final Standing: 3rd AL Central

 

 

American League West

 

correa altuve

 

Houston Astros

2015 Record: 86-76 • (2nd AL West)

O/U Wins in 2016: 87.5 Wins • Over

X-Factor: Carlos Correa • SS

Potential Breakout Player: Ken Giles • RP

Futures Report: Alex Bergman • SS

2016 Final Standing: 1st AL West

 

trout

 

Los Angeles Angels

2015 Record: 85-77 • (3rd AL West)

O/U Wins in 2016: 79.5 Wins • Under

X-Factor: Albert Pujols • 1B/DH

Potential Breakout Player: Andrew Heaney • SP

Futures Report: Taylor Ward • C

2016 Final Standing: 4th AL West

 

Oakland Athletics v Houston Astros

 

Oakland A’s

2015 Record: 68-94 • (5th AL West)

O/U Wins in 2016: 76 Wins • Under

X-Factor: Sonny Gray • SP

Potential Breakout Player: Kendall Graveman • SP

Futures Report: Franklin Barreto • SS

2016 Final Standing: 5th AL West

 

MLB: Los Angeles Angels at Seattle Mariners

 

Seattle Mariners

2015 Record: 76-86 • (4th AL West)

O/U Wins in 2016: 82.5 Wins • Under

X-Factor: Kyle Seager • 3B

Potential Breakout Player: Taijuan Walker • SP

Futures Report: Alex Jackson • OF

2016 Final Standing: 3rd AL West

 

rangers

 

Texas Rangers

2015 Record: 88-74 • (1st AL West)

O/U Wins in 2016: 82.5 Wins • Over

X-Factor: Yu Darvish • SP

Potential Breakout Player: Roughned Odor • 2B

Futures Report: Joey Gallo • 3B

2016 Final Standing: 2nd AL West

 

Awards

American League MVP

  1. Troy Tulowitzki • SS • Toronto Blue Jays
  2. Carlos Correa • SS • Houston Astros
  3. Mookie Betts • OF • Boston Red Sox

 

American League Cy Young

  1. Chris Sale • LHP • Chicago White Sox
  2. Cole Hamels • LHP • Texas Rangers
  3. Chris Archer • RHP • Tampa Bay Rays

 

American League Rookie of the Year

  1. Byron Buxton • OF • Minnesota Twins
  2. Joey Gallo • 3B • Texas Rangers
  3. Blake Snell • SP • Tampa Bay Rays

 

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2015 MLB Season Preview • AL Central • Cleveland Indians

Progressive Field

Cleveland Indians

Home Ballpark: Progressive Field

2014 Finish: 85 – 77 · 3rd AL Central

Over/Under Wins in 2015: 81 · Over

What We Love:

  • Power Arms and Rotation Depth: With as strong, and deep, of a starting rotation like Cleveland has, it’s no wonder they’ve been receiving so much preseason love and hype to make some BIG noise in the AL Central this season. Heading into 2014, it was the young flame throwing, Danny Salazar, who was garnering all of the preseason hype. By the season’s end, it would be another hard throwing righty that would be getting all of the press (and awards); Corey Kluber. Kluber, who came out of (seemingly) nowhere, went 18-9 with a 2.44 ERA and struck out 269 batters over 235 innings, on his way to edging out King Felix (Hernandez) and capturing the 2014 Cy Young Award. This season, Kluber will be (heavily) relied upon to anchor a starting rotation that has tremendous upside, but is also unproven. Even after optioning the highly talented Salazar to AAA, the Tribe (still) have a duo of hard throwing righties (Carlos Carrasco and Trevor Bauer) that could be poised to take a big “next step” in 2015. Both Carrasco and Bauer, whom were (former) top pitching prospects for other teams before being acquired by the Tribe, set career highs in appearances, starts, innings pitched and strikeouts, in 2014. Behind that trio of righties, the Indians rotation will be rounded out by the combo of LHP T.J House and RHP Zach McAllister. Meanwhile in AAA, the Indians have the aforementioned Danny Salazar, along with RHP Josh Tomlin, waiting in the wings.

kluber1

  • The emergence of Yan Gomes: As a Blue Jays fan, this is a very sore topic to discuss. Let me take you back to the days (2012) when the Blue Jays had too many young catching prospects (like that’s ever a bad thing!) in their farm system and ended up including the versatile Gomes, as a THROW IN nonetheless, in a trade for a pitcher (Esmil Rogers). In the two seasons since that trade, the Blue Jays have seen the likes of JP Arencibia, Josh Thole, Dioner Navarro, Henry Blanco, Mike Nickeas (who?) and now Russell Martin, play at least one game behind the dish for them. Meanwhile, the acquisition and emergence of Gomes as an everyday catcher in Cleveland, has allowed the Tribe to move the versatile Carlos Santana to other positions of offensive need (1B/3B/DH). Besides being an above average game caller and defender, Gomes has also proven that he is no slouch at the plate. In his two seasons in Cleveland, Gomes has hit for a .284 average with 32 HR and 112 RBI in 778 AB. Bat and glove aside, the most underrated aspect about Gomes is that he may be one of the best bargains in baseball, as he is locked up through 2020 on a 6yr/$23 million dollar deal. On behalf of Indians fans around the World… THANK YOU TORONTO!

 

MLB: Houston Astros at Cleveland Indians

 

       Honourable Mentions:

  • Potential of a Francisco Lindor sighting before seasons end.
  • The likelihood of a BIG bounce back campaign by 2B Jason Kipnis.
  • A full season of SS Jose Ramirez’s glove and wheels.
  • Fading out Chief Wahoo for the more culturally sensitive “C” logo.

 

What We Hate:

  • The (remaining) Michael Bourn and Nick Swisher Contracts: In the 2012 offseason, the notoriously tight pocketed Indians opened up their chequebooks and signed a pair of big name free agents to four year contracts. CF Michael Bourn was the recipient of a 4 yr/$48 million dollar deal, while 1B/OF Nick Swisher was brought in on a 4 year deal worth $56 million dollars. Now two seasons into those deals and it looks like the Indians wish they had the ability to get a mulligan on those two signings. Both players have struggled with injuries and inconsistent play, and both are still owed a small fortune for the remaining two years of their contracts. Swisher, who has batted .231/30/105 in 909 AB in two seasons, is owed $30 million over the next two seasons ($15 mil per year). While Bourn, who is owed a remaining $27.5 million over the next two seasons, has hit .260/9/78 in 969 AB and has seen his stolen base numbers drastically decline (33 steals in two seasons) thanks to hamstring injuries. Besides getting a poor return on investment, the biggest issue with these two contracts is that it prevents a mid-market team like the Indians from making in-season moves to add depth to a position of need or replace an injured player. Not to mention that it prevents them from going out and splurging on the bigger free agents available. Imagine if the Tribe had the money this offseason to go out and sign one of the big name starting pitchers?

Swish and Bourn

Honourable Mention:

  • Besides Cody Allen, bullpen could be trick or treat.
  • Potential for some historically bad defensive numbers.
  • Sandy Alomar Jr’s inability to find a role as a big league manager.
  • Replacing Wesley Snipes with Omar Epps… like we wouldn’t notice.

 

 

Player to Watch: SP Trevor Bauer. It seems like it has been a lifetime since Bauer was drafted 3rd overall in 2011 by the Arizona Diamondbacks. Bauer, who was viewed as an extremely polished starter coming out of UCLA, cruised through the minors and wound up making four starts for the Diamondbacks in 2012. What seemed like a very bright future in the desert soon grew into a bitter relationship over Bauer’s unwillingness to alter his workout regime (long toss and stretching over weightlifting). The Diamondbacks viewed Bauer as “uncoachable,” quickly soured on him and flipped him for a 70% return rate (Didi Gregorious). Bauer, who is listed as 6’1, 190, modelled his delivery and mechanics off another lean and wiry starting pitcher, Tim Lincecum. It doesn’t matter who is right or wrong in this argument, what matters is that the Indians absolutely pilfered Bauer from the Diamondbacks. Last season marked Bauer’s first full season in the majors and he enjoyed a bit of an up and down season. Bauer made 26 starts for the Indians, went 5-8 with a 4.18 ERA and struck out 143 batters over 153 innings. Even with his win/loss record and ERA, there was more good than bad for Bauer in 2014 and there is no reason not to expect Bauer to take another big step forward in 2015.

 

Bauer

Top Pitching Prospect: Justus Sheffield · LHP · MLB ETA: 2018

Sheffield, Justus 1408 (Mitchell).jpg

 

Top Positional Prospect: Francisco Lindor · SS · MLB ETA: 2015

 

Francisco Lindor

Top 30 Prospects (MLB.com): http://m.mlb.com/prospects/2015?list=cle

 

Final Prediction: 1st AL Central

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